South African Navy Code of Conduct

By | October 23, 2017

South African Navy Code of Conduct

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We have all signed the Code of Conduct, thereby confirming that we are obliged to conform to the content.  We have all surely read the Code but are we fully aware of what it means to us, and how we must conduct ourselves to conform to the content.  For this reason I have amplified the content below to try to explain exactly what each paragraph of the Code means to us as professional Navy members.  We as members of the SANDF must realise that on signing this Code we are obliged to fulfill its conditions.

  • I pledge to serve and defend my country and its people in accordance with the Constitution and the law and with honour, dignity, courage and integrity.

This implies that as a member of the SANDF you are to abide by the Constitution and the laws of the RSA.  You must, in other words, be knowledgeable of the content of the Constitution and the laws of the RSA and realise that you are responsible for not only complying with the law, but also ensuring that other persons comply with the law.  To serve with honour, dignity, courage and integrity means that you as an individual must show allegiance to what is right and conform to a standard of conduct, you must show true worth, display bravery and be honest.

  • I serve in the SANDF with loyalty and pride, and as a citizen and a volunteer.

This means that you must be true and faithful in your duty to our country and the SANDF.  You must display your positive opinion of your own qualities in bearing and conduct.  You must remember that you are a citizen of the RSA and have voluntarily offered your services, and even your life if the need arises, to defend our country.

  • I respect the democratic political process and civil control of the SANDF.

You have acknowledged support for democracy.  This means you have respect for the political process of government by all the people of the RSA, and you will respect the rights of all people.  You have also agreed to accept that the Defence Secretariat, headed by the Secretary for Defence, will act in support of the Minister of Defence’s responsibility to direct and control the defence function through the Department of Defence.  You will therefore be answerable to this Secretariat and show respect to all Public Service Act Personnel within the DOD.

  • I will not advance or harm the interests of any political party or organisation.

This means that you are committed to refraining from expressing your political views that may promote the interest of your particular political party or be detrimental to another political party.  Bear in mind it has always been taboo to discuss politics within the military environment.  It goes without saying that members are loyal to their political parties and this could result in heated discussions that could lead to a breakdown in comradeship.  Therefore, do not discuss politics in the work place or in messes and canteens.

  • I accept personal responsibility for my actions.

You will be held accountable for your actions and conduct.  This means you must be self-disciplined and conduct yourself like a reasonable person.  Do not react emotionally but think before you do things that could be detrimental to yourself and your colleagues.  To ensure our actions are correct, we are trained in our specific musterings and we have policies, regulations and procedures that we must adhere to.  Never blame the organisation for your shortcomings; the divisional system is there to assist you in your career and in time of need.  Avoid skipping channels in the divisional system as this results in confusing the situation that needs to be addressed.

  • I will obey all lawful commands and respect all superiors.

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Amongst others, discipline entails the obeying of orders.  An effective military structure will not survive in times of war or peace if orders are not obeyed.  Discipline is therefore the cornerstone of any fighting force.  If you do not understand the order being given to you, you have the right to ask for clarity.  For this reason, it is so important that orders be issued clearly and in understandable terms.  There must also be respect for seniors throughout all the levels of rank.  Remember respect is not one-sided, it is mutual, ie juniors must respect seniors and vice versa.

  • I will refuse to obey an obviously illegal order.

It is your duty not to obey an illegal order.  However, you must fully understand what constitutes an illegal order.  This is when you are given an order that will result in you acting outside of the accepted law, i.e. which could amount to committing a common law crime or statutory crime that could lead to prosecution.  An example would be an order for you to shoot POWs during war or an order in peace to assist a senior in theft of State property.  An “irregular” order is not an illegal order, i.e. an Army officer reprimands a SA Navy member iro his dress.  The fact that he/she is not your Divisional Officer does not make this an illegal order.

  • I will carry out my mission with courage and assist my comrades-in-arms, even at the risk of my own life.

You accept to be fully committed to your duties, be it in time of war or peace.  You must display bravery in the face of the enemy and be prepared to pay the ultimate price in the execution of your duties and protection of your comrades-in-arm.  This is a true reflection of absolute dedication and teamwork.

  • I will treat all people fairly and respect their rights and dignity at all times, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, culture, language and sexual orientation.

This means that you will treat all members fairly and impartially.  You will not be disrespectful to them, not make offensive or derogatory remarks and not disadvantage them because of their race, ethnicity, gender, culture, language and sexual orientation.  Remember that courtesy costs nothing, yet those few words of greeting to your fellow workers can give them the warm feeling of being wanted and provide the assurance that they belong in the SA Navy- and that it cares for them.

  • I will respect and support subordinates and treat them fairly.

As a senior you are committed to helping and developing your juniors.  They must be supported in work and career related matters as well as their well being.  You must guide them and ensure fair and equal treatment of juniors.  You are their coach, tutor and supervisor.  Fair and firm treatment must always remain in force and this implies that poor discipline will not be tolerated.  Remember that one of the biggest challenges facing the SA Navy is to maintain good discipline.

  • I will not abuse my authority, position or public funds for personal gain, political motive or any other reason.

Abuse of authority, position or public funds takes the form of showing favoritism, victimisation, harassment, intimidation or financial misconduct.  State funds should always be used in a regular and proper manner in order to achieve efficiency, effectiveness and economy.  Any financial misconduct is in contravention of the Public Finance Management Act and any contravention and conviction could lead to a fine or imprisonment.

  • I will report criminal activity, corruption and misconduct to the appropriate authority.

This means do not turn a blind eye to such activities.  There are restrictions on the budget allocation and misuse of these funds results in a drain on our limited available funds.  We all have a duty to report any irregularities and for this reason call lines for reporting such suspected activities, have been created.

  • I will strive to improve the capabilities of the SANDF by maintaining discipline, safeguarding property, developing skills and knowledge, and performing my duties diligently and professionally.

Do not be guilty of willfully damaging property and equipment, remember these assets are required to ensure or readiness and are expensive to replace.  Opportunities are available for every member to attend learning opportunities and develop their knowledge, make use of these opportunities.  To increase your knowledge in the environment of the military, books and the latest magazines are available. To become professional you must remain abreast of what is happening in the military environment.  Also read the newspapers to develop a clear understanding of world affairs.  We are already involved with deployments in Africa – make sure you understand what is happening on this continent.  I also urge you to make use of the Intranet and Internet which is available to you at all units – this will keep you up to date with current affairs in the SA Navy and give you insight into other interesting articles.

To summarise, the above interpretation is that of my own.  There is no doubt much more explanation that could have been provided and examples quoted.  These are a few and I am sure one could write a whole book on this subject, because the Code covers all aspects of what is expected of a professional military man or woman.  I pass this on to you to read and understand what is expected from you in terms of what you committed yourself to on signing the Code of Conduct.  This should be used as a guide to becoming a dedicated and proud member of the SANDF, that will be admired and respected by the people of our country.  This in itself will make us a People’s Navy, that can fight at sea, win at sea and be unchallenged at sea.